All about planks: why do them?

Everyone knows what a plank is.


Planking overtook the sit-up some time ago, but most people don’t know why they are doing them and why are we skipping sit-ups.


Let’s first talk about the muscles.


The core muscles are not just the six pack you see on T.V.  😉


The core muscles include the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, pelvic floor muscles, glutes, and back muscles.


These muscles have to co-contract in order to “stiffen” up and protect the joints they surround – the low back and hips.


They [the core muscles] have been shown to occur [co-contract] during most daily activities (Marras and Mirka,1990).


This mechanism is present to such an extent that without co-contractions the spinal column is unstable even in upright postures! (Gardner-Morseand Stokes, 1998)


So, not only does bracing, or co-contracting, of the muscles lead to a safer spine, but also one that performs better and enhances overall performance.


While you might not be looking to get a medal in sprinting, I bet you are looking to play with your kids or grandkids, lift heavy boxes, move furniture around, or clean up the backyard without getting hurt and without feeling like you got run over by a truck.


And so, abdominal bracing allows force to be transferred through the body, connecting the upper and lower body so you can do the above stuff safely and efficiently.


This is where the plank comes in.


This exercise teaches your body to brace – to “anti-move” so force can be “transduced” (that might not be a real word…just go with it) and you can do more stuff!


To maximize the effectiveness of the plank:

  • The low back should be in neutral position (ribs down and without too much or too little curve in your low back)
  • Neck or cervical spine should also be neutral
  • Toes under heels
  • Elbows under shoulders
  • Breathe like your ribs are an accordion. Breathe into your waist and low back like you are a balloon.
  • ***Press the floor down and away from you through your palms, forearms, and balls of your feet.


At Her Fitness, I often take a PVC pipe and place in on the back with the goal for the pipe to touch the back of the head, upper back and butt. I look for a two-finger distance between the curve of the low back to the pipe.


Here’s a pretty good picture of what this looks like. I’d adjust this woman to have her palms down, lengthen through her spine to help her bring her ribs down a bit.



There’s a lot more to “core training” than just planking, but abdominal bracing and training with planks are foundational.




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